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Bonding with blue bloods

Newfoundland MP talks up local Tories

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/02) - The formula is pretty simple.

Bring together a few people who have similar mindsets. Talk about ideas and visions and make fun of people who think differently. Splash on some wine and beer. Follow with a $25-a-plate buffalo burger and arctic char barbecue, and you have a political fundraiser.

This time it was the Tories, who on Tuesday rallied around Loyola Hearn, Progressive Conservative MP for St. John's West.

Hearn, a junior member of the federal house who was voted in during a byelection in 2000, brought North a healthy shot of upbeat political talk.

It was Hearn's second time in the Northwest Territories in 20 years -- his first visit came shortly after being elected to the Newfoundland provincial legislature -- and he was here to talk up the party and give some pointers on strategy.

One key political target: Yellowknife's thousands-strong community of expatriate Newfoundlanders.

"They have blue blood, so they can be a great force in your association," he said.

Hearn is not ready to capitalize on the woes of the opposition, however. Asked whether accusations against sitting Liberal MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew would help the Tory cause, he said, "Perceptually, it doesn't help. But I would hope that's not the sole reason our candidate would win."

Even so, he said, "you have to be extremely careful because perception in politics is reality."

Blondin-Andrew has been accused of trying to silence a woman whose daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted by Michel Chretien, the prime minister's son.

Last federal election, the Tories brought in 10 per cent of the Western Arctic vote. A dozen people showed up at a reception with Hearn, while 30 had purchased tickets to the fundraiser.

Bruce McLaughlin, who ran for the Conservatives in 2000, said it was a hastily arranged race in a hastily arranged election.

Next time around, the party should have more time to prepare, especially with Prime Minister Jean Chretien's announcement that he would retire in 2004, near the next federal election.

However, the local party has yet to choose a representative, and that was one of Hearn's talking points.

He reassured those who were listening, politics can change fast. As a member of the Conservative Party, which was reduced to a shadow of its former self in the 1993 federal election, he's in a position to know a bit about that.

But he also had some hope to pass on.

"If we don't start, we'll never do well," he said.

"Our party is on the rebound."